“Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison… Though he wanted to put him to death, he feared the people, because they held him to be a prophet. But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company and pleased Herod, so that he promised to give her whatever she might ask... She said, ‘Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.’ And the king was sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he… sent and had John beheaded in the prison, and his head was brought on a platter… And his disciples came and took the body and buried it, and told Jesus. Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. Crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick… Jesus said, ‘Give them something to eat…’
“He made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side… And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray… The boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves. And he came to them, walking on the sea.” Matthew 14:3-14,16,22-25
In the middle of grief, it is the sense of bereavement that chokes the heart. No more, never again, never will be. A deafening silence, a suffocating void, a palpable absence. Sometimes shock punctuates it with additional horror and cruelty. Jesus’s godly cousin had been unconscionably murdered, yet He found little space to process it and quiet His soul. Overcome or not, needs pressed, and He continued to give. His loss fueled others’ gain.
To know sadness in loss is to have known fullness, holy longing, deep love. To be deprived of something or someone treasured is to empathize with the grief of others, to understand in a small way the gift the Father gave in His beloved son. And to know these passions brings us into fellowship with our Savior who was well acquainted with grief, who suffered giving His life for us. (Isaiah 53:3; Matthew 3:17; John 3:16; 2 Corinthians 1:5-6)
The Lord tenderly, graciously manipulates the tool of grief in our lives to rework any coldness or self-protectiveness into warm compassion, to shape our hearts to relate and respond generously to those around us. He is a marvelous God who transforms opposites to exemplify His glorious redemption of the soul.
What loss in our lives might God intend to turn to another’s gain? What can we learn from those in different and hard circumstances, and how can we relate and minister with true empathy?
Blessed be You, my Man of Sorrows, Father of mercies, God of all comfort. Have Your way with every grief to make me more like Thee.
Not so much seek to be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life
Amen ~St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226)